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The RotoViz Scouting Index – The Most Coveted Prospects for Fantasy Football

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dailyemerald.com

Welcome to the first edition of the 2015 Rotoviz Scouting Index.

The RSI will attempt to give a snapshot of what the NFL media draft community is thinking about prospects going into the NFL Draft. The positional tables are below, so if you want you can just skip to the rankings. But first it might be valuable to know why we’ve made this index.

It starts with a simple theory that a dedicated group of football buffs, whose rankings are combined into an index, could potentially outpredict NFL draft position as an indicator of prospect talent. It’s just a theory. We haven’t backtested it although we are interested enough in the idea that we’ll probably start looking for the old data in order to do just that. But why do we think that a dedicated group of media scouts could outperform draft position as an indicator of prospect talent?

First, they’d  wisdom of the crowds on their side. Right now our index only contains four unique sets of rankings but we hope to grow that number as more media scouts release their rankings. Second, they wouldn’t have team need or scheme fit dragging them down. NFL teams draft for scheme fit, then fire their coaches in a couple of years, and leave players to rot because they don’t fit the new scheme. Third, there’s probably reason to expect that media scouts could be on par in quality with the evaluators actually working for teams. In fact some media scouts have gone from media, to team, back to media again.

There’s one area where the media scouts are at a disadvantage and that’s because they can’t hand out playing time.  NFL franchises can do things like give rookie running backs starting jobs without a competition, or stick with a struggling QB when many less biased observers would have moved on. The media scouts can’t do that. Once their opinion is given they don’t have any control over future events. Now that you know the theory behind what we’re doing, let’s get to the rankings.

For this first edition, I will be using rankings from CBS Sports, Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller, Walter Football, and Draft Countdown. These evaluators have done the heavy lifting of actually watching the prospects, so you should be sure to visit their sites to get their complete thoughts on the players.

Each of these sites publishes positional rankings, so I assigned a point value for each ranking, and then averaged these point totals. Next, I scored the prospects on a scale of 0-100 based on these averages. As more people begin to publish their rankings, the data will grow and we will be able to have a better picture of what people think about a given prospect.

Quarterback

Prospect CBS Sports Matt Miller Walter Draft Countdown  Average  Index Score
Jameis Winston 16 15 16 16           15.75               98.44
Marcus Mariotta 15 16 15 15           15.25               95.31
Brett Hundley 14 14 13 14           13.75               85.94
Garrett Grayson 13 12 14 12           12.75               79.69
Bryce Petty 12 13 10 13           12.00               75.00
Shane Carden 11 11 11 10           10.75               67.19
Sean Mannion 10 9 12 11           10.50               65.63
Cody Fajardo 6 8 8 9             7.75               48.44
Brandon Bridge 5 10 1 8             6.00               37.50
Blake Sims 9 6 1 7             5.75               35.94
Bo Wallace 1 7 6 6             5.00               31.25
Bryan Bennett 4 5 1 5             3.75               23.44
Tyler Heinicke 7 4 1 1             3.25               20.31
Taylor Kelly 1 1 7 4             3.25               20.31
Chuckie Keeton 1 1 9 1             3.00               18.75
Connor Halliday 9 1 1 1             3.00               18.75

The index shows four clear tiers. The first tier is made up of two prospects: Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta. They have extremely close index scores, and both prospects are far ahead of the other quarterbacks in this year’s class. Matt Miller was the only ranker to rank Mariotta above Winston, and it will be interesting to see how the battle for the top QB spot progresses throughout the offseason.

The next tier is the largest. It consists of Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson, Bryce Petty, Shane Carden, and Sean Mannion. Hundley is almost unanimously considered the third best quarterback in the class. He is ranked third by all websites except for Walter football, which has him ranked fourth. Grayson and Petty are just behind Hundley, while Carden and Mannion look to lag behind the rest of this group.

Cody Fajardo, Brandon Bridge, Blake Sims, and Bo Wallace check in as the next tier. This tier begins a sharp drop off in the index. Fajardo is the last prospect to have any form of consistency in his ranking, as he received scores between six and nine from the experts. On the other hand, Brandon Bridge received a score as high as 10 (meaning he was ranked seventh), and also received a score of one (ranked 16th or worse). Excluding Fajardo, this tier seems to have a lot of uncertainty among the experts.

Bryan Bennett, Tyler Heinicke, Taylor Kelly, Chuckie Keeton, and Connor Halliday compromise the final tier of quarterbacks. All of their index scores are within five points of each other, showing that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding these quarterbacks. In the coming weeks, monitor the battle up top between Mariotta and Winston closely, while also keeping an eye on the players in the middle tiers as there could be a few risers.

Running Backs

Prospect CBS Sports Matt Miller Walter Draft Countdown  Average  Index
Todd Gurley 21 22 22 22        21.75        98.86
Melvin Gordon 22 19 21 21        20.75        94.32
Tevin Coleman 17 21 19 19        19.00        86.36
Duke Johnson 18 20 20 17        18.75        85.23
Ameer Abdullah 20 18 17 16        17.75        80.68
T.J. Yeldon 16 17 18 18        17.25        78.41
Jay Ajayi 19 15 15 20        17.25        78.41
Mike Davis 15 14 16 14        14.75        67.05
Javorious Allen 11 13 14 15        13.25        60.23
David Cobb 14 16 7 12        12.25        55.68
Jeremey Langford 12 10 13 13        12.00        54.55
David Johnson 13 9 11 11        11.00        50.00
Cameron Artis-Payne 10 11 10 10        10.25        46.59
Josh Robinson 4 12 12 4           8.00        36.36
Matt Jones 7 7 6 9           7.25        32.95
Malcolm Brown 3 8 3 5           4.75        21.59
Karlos Williams 6 4 1 7           4.50        20.45
Dominique Brown 8 6 1 2           4.25        19.32
Kenny Hilliard 1 1 9 3           3.50        15.91
Michael Dyer 1 1 4 6           3.00        13.64
Dee Hart 1 5 1           2.33        10.61
Trey Williams 1 3 2 1           1.75           7.95

Despite his torn ACL, Todd Gurley still comes in as the top back in this class. His season started off with Heisman trophy aspirations, but soon he was suspended for four games and eventually had the aforementioned ACL tear. Melvin Gordon had a season to remember this year for Wisconsin , and comes in as the second best back in the class.

No one should be surprised to see Gurley and Gordon atop the rankings, but I was pretty surprised to see Tevin Coleman ranked as the third best back in the class. Recently, he went as the 12th overall pick in the Rotoviz Mock Draft, and Rich Hribar also discussed Coleman’s extremely high percentage of long touchdown runs. Coleman could potentially rise up both fantasy draft boards over the course of the offseason.

Duke Johnson comes in right behind Coleman, as only 1.14 points separate them on the index. Johnson had an amazing career at Miami and looks like he could develop into a three down back in the NFL. In his two full seasons in college (he broke his ankle early in the 2013 season), he has 65 receptions. At worst, Johnson could be solid third down back in the league.  Gurley and Gordon are the top tier in the class, with Coleman and Johnson coming in as the next tier.

Ameer Abdullah, TJ Yeldon and Jay Ajayi represent an intriguing group of prospects. Abdullah should rise up boards due to his recent senior bowl performance in which he won the MVP. Yeldon was a solid producer during his three years at Alabama, and looks to follow in the footsteps of the great backs that came before him. Finally, Ajayi had an outstanding season this year and helped Boise State win the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Ajayi is ranked as high as third by Draft Countdown, but as low as eighth.  All of these backs have three down potential and could easily be drafted in the second or early third round.

Don’t be surprised if any of the prospects further down the board vault up a few tiers. David Johnson had a nice week at the senior bowl, and the small school standout could be this year’s Terrance West. David Cobb and Jeremy Langford were both productive backs in the Big Ten this year. Cobb had a breakout senior season and has been garnering a lot of positive buzz lately. Langford had over 100 yards in 16 straight Big Ten games and excelled in his senior season. Josh Robinson also had a nice season for Mississippi State, helping to lead them to and Orange Bowl berth. He is another back on the lower end of the index to keep an eye on. Running back will be the position to monitor in the index in the weeks leading up the draft.

Wide Receivers

Prospect CBS Sports Matt Miller Walter Draft Countdown  Average  Index
Amari Cooper 30 30 30 30        30.00      100.00
Devante Parker 28 29 29 29        28.75        95.83
Kevin White 29 28 28 28        28.25        94.17
Jaelen Strong 26 26 27 27        26.50        88.33
Sammie Coates 25 25 26 26        25.50        85.00
Dorial Green-Beckham 27 23 25        25.00        83.33
Devin Smith 23 23 24 24        23.50        78.33
Devin Funchess 24 27 19        23.33        77.78
Nelson Agholor 22 24 22 21        22.25        74.17
Ty Montgomery 13 19 25 22        19.75        65.83
Rashad Greene 19 22 17 20        19.50        65.00
Justin Hardy 14 20 20 23        19.25        64.17
Josh Harper 18 21 14 19        18.00        60.00
Tony Lippitt 17 14 16 18        16.25        54.17
Phillip Dorsett 20 12 21 11        16.00        53.33
Dres Anderson 11 13 15 16        13.75        45.83
Tyler Lockett 16 17 10 10        13.25        44.17
Stefon Diggs 10 16 13 13        13.00        43.33
Vince Mayle 12 18 7 12        12.25        40.83
Jamison Crowder 21 10 6 8        11.25        37.50
Deonte Greenberry 8 1 18 17        11.00        36.67
Antwan Goodley 5 15 8 14        10.50        35.00
Breshad Perriman 15 1 5 15           9.00        30.00
Austin Hill 9 11 3 9           8.00        26.67
Dezmin Lewis 6 7 11 4           7.00        23.33
Devante Davis 1 9 12 5           6.75        22.50
Titus Davis 2 6 1 7           4.00        13.33
Tre McBride 7 1 1 6           3.75        12.50
Kasen Williams 1 3 1 1           1.50           5.00
Donatella Luckett 1 1 1 1           1.00           3.33

Amari Cooper, Devante Parker, and Kevin White all received relatively close index scores and make up the first tier of wide receivers. Cooper was the unanimous top wide receiver in the class, receiving a perfect score of 30 from every site (every site had him first). White was third behind both Parker and Cooper, but he has been gaining a tremendous amount of buzz lately. Recently, Matt Miller came out and said that scouts believe White is the “consensus number one receiver” in this draft class. Could White possibly jump all the way up to one? It will certainly be a situation to monitor in the coming weeks.

Jaelen Strong, Sammie Coates, Dorial Green Beckham, Devin Smith, Devin Funchess, and Nelson Agholor represent one of the more polarizing tiers in the entire draft. Green Beckham is one of the most talented players in the draft, as he was ranked as the number one receiver in the nation coming out of high school. But, after getting kicked out of Missouri after drug charges and a domestic assault case, his character has been called into question. Coates is a physically talented freak, who at six foot two is expected to run in the high 4.3’s in the forty yard dash at the combine. But, Coates does not have the college production to go along with his measurables, and is considered raw. Devin Smith was a talented deep threat at Ohio State, but will he be able to develop his route running and become more than a situational deep threat in the NFL? And finally, what is Devin Funchess’ true position: wide receiver or tight end? As you can see, he is unranked by Draft Countdown, but he is ranked as their number one tight end. This group could rise or fall drastically throughout the pre-draft process, and this will probably be my favorite group to monitor leading up to the draft.

Some other interesting take aways from the index. Justin Hardy, the all-time leader in receptions in only ranked 12th on average out of all the wide receivers in this class. While I expect him to stay in the range of WR10-14, he could be another riser. Phillip Dorsett has been gaining steam after a nice Senior Bowl week, and should vault up the board as he should run sub 4.4 at the combine. One of the small school players (Tre McBride, Dezmin Lewis, Titus Davis [the Wunderkind’s brother], and Donatella Luckett) will probably catch on as a sleeper and rise up boards.

Tight Ends

Prospect CBS Sports Matt Miller Walter Draft Countdown  Average  Index Score
Maxx Williams 15 15 15 15     15.00           100.00
Clive Walford 14 14 13 14     13.75              91.67
Nick O’Leary 12 9 14 13     12.00              80.00
Jesse James 13 10     11.50              76.67
Jeff Heuerman 9 13 10 12     11.00              73.33
Ben Koyack 11 12 11 9     10.75              71.67
Tyler Kroft 10 8 12 8        9.50              63.33
EJ Bibbs 6 11 9 7        8.25              55.00
Nick Boyle 8 2 8 11        7.25              48.33
Wes Saxton 5 7 5        5.67              37.78
MyCole Pruitt 7 6 1        4.67              31.11
Gerald Christian 1 10 6 1        4.50              30.00
Blake Bell 4 1 3        2.67              17.78
Jean Sifrin 3 1 2        2.00              13.33
Casey Pierce 2 1        1.50              10.00

Maxx Williams is the consensus number one tight end and will likely stay that way for the entire pre-draft process. What will be more interesting to monitor will be the watching who emerges as the next group of tight ends behind Williams. Right now, that tier consists of Miami’s Clive Walford, Florida State’s Nick O’leary, Penn State’s Jesse James, and Ohio State’s Jeff Heuerman. Out of all of these players, James has the greatest potential to become the best of the bunch. With his imposing physical stature (6’7”, 254 pounds) Jame’s stock could quickly rise, possibly all the way to the second best tight end.

Ben Koyack caught the only touchdown pass at the Senior Bowl, which may potentially help him break into the top five of the index rankings. Small school prospect Nick Boyle, out of Delaware, had two catches for 31 yards in the game. He displayed his athleticism on a 22 yard reception in which he hurdled a defender. Boyle could become this year’s “sleeper” at tight end. One other candidate for the “sleeper” tag is converted Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell. At 6’6”, 251 pounds the Belldozer had prototypical size of a dominant red zone type end. He caught four touchdowns this season, his first at tight end. While Bell is far down the index right now, experts could become enamored with his potential and he could vault up the index.

The Index will be interesting to watch over the coming weeks. Situations to monitor include the battle for the top spot at the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions. The middle tiers at all positions appear unsettled for the moment, and as more data pours in we should get a clearer picture as to who ultimately will make up these tiers. As always, be on the lookout for new prospects that enter the index or quickly climb the ranks of the index. It should be a riveting off season leading up the draft. With the combine a few short weeks way, the pre-draft process will begin to ramp up soon. Welcome to the offseason, it should be an interesting one.

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By Kyle Pollock | @KylePollockFF | Archive

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